On This Day…

Tylenol Murders

September 29, 1982

The first two of seven deaths from cyanide-laced Tylenol acetaminophen capsules. A 12-year-old girl and a 27-year-old man die after taking cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules. The man’s brother and sister-in-law later also died from after taking Tylenol from the same bottle. Three other people would die in the following days. Tests showed that the Tylenol had been laced with cyanide. Several others also died in copycat murders.
The tampered bottles came from different pharmaceutical companies and all were in the Chicago area, leading authorities to conclude that someone was lacing the medicine and putting it back on the shelves.
The killer has never been caught. James William Lewis was convicted of extortion for sending a letter to Johnson & Johnson that took credit for the deaths and demanded $1 million to stop them; however, he was in New York at the time and never charged for the actual murders. He served 13 years of a 20-year sentence, and was paroled in 1995.
This incident prompted the pharmaceutical, food, and consumer product industries to develop tamper-resistant packaging.